Specific breakdown by race, ethnicity not available
The St. Paul Midway soccer stadium being built on the 34.5-acre former Metro Transit bus garage lot is nearly halfway completed, and the contractor reports that, at this mid-point, all workforce diversity goals and goals for subcontracting with minority-and-women-owned businesses are being met or exceeded.
The site is being called a “super block” by Mortenson Construction and St. Paul City officials. “It is Snelling, Pascal, University and [Interstate] 94, and St. Anthony, the larger continuous rectangle that [the stadium] is sited on, and the development around it,” Mortenson Executive and Project Manager Greg Huber told the MSR after an April 24 construction update meeting at Griggs-Midway Building in St. Paul. “We are not doing any of the development around [the stadium],” he noted.
The scheduled 90-minute meeting was attended by around 50 people, mostly small business owners, officials estimated. One of them, a Latino electrical business owner, complained that business owners like him aren’t getting opportunities to work on large-scale projects like the St. Paul stadium. “We as people of color sit on the bottom of all the work,” he said during the Q&A session.
Tony Lusiba, an IT business owner from Maplewood, asked Huber if there are any repeat subcontractors on the St. Paul job from previous stadium projects. “The reason behind my question,” he explained afterwards to the MSR, “was [to see] if there’s a way that smaller businesses just getting on the scene can show what they can do. Is there a way they can get work and get the opportunity to get in on these deals?
“The answer I got was no,” he said – that Mortenson keeps a list on repeat subcontractors. “He [Huber] said maybe that’s something they might do in the future.”
The City of St. Paul contributed $16.1 million to the $200 million soccer stadium project. “The City is committed to making sure that the process is open and clear,” David Gorski, the contract compliance and business development manager in the St. Paul Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity (HREEO) office, told the MSR.
“We ran an open and competitive [bidding] process,” Huber explained. “It wasn’t an invitation-only process, but we advertised in a lot of newspapers. We got a lot of sub-contractors” at various events held at the Twins stadium and Vikings stadium, he recalled. He stressed that building stadiums “is specialty work,” and due to its design, the St. Paul soccer stadium is “unique” as well.
“There are a lot of subcontractors [on the project] that we didn’t use at” the Twins ballpark, Huber noted, adding that the list of subcontractors working on the St. Paul project can be found on his company’s website. However, the MSR subsequently was unable to find such a list on Mortensen’s website.
“Finding the right fit with us” as a subcontractor on large-scale jobs is important, Mortenson Community Affairs Manager Trina Bolton told the gathering. She added that the soccer stadium to date is meeting workforce equity and inclusion goals.
“We continue to push ourselves to achieve the goals” of 32 percent Blacks and other people of color and six percent female,” Bolton stated. “We should exceed the goals.”
Bolton later told the MSR, “The [inclusion] goals are the same” as those on the Gopher football stadium, “and we exceeded those goals. We’re confident and believe we will achieve or exceed” the St. Paul soccer stadium as well, Bolton pledged.
Asked for a workforce breakdown by race and ethnicity, Bolton responded, “I can get that information for you. Send me an email.” However, by press time Bolton had not responded to multiple MSR emails requesting the information.
Instead, we were advised only of overall progress toward inclusion goals by Cameron Snyder in an email. “These figures,” he said, “are in line with the standards set forth for the project for targeted group reporting. Further demographic details are not recorded per project requirements.
“Small Business: The Small, Women, and Minority Business Enterprise (SWMBE) goal is 25% on the project. We are exceeding this goal and achieving 28% SWMBE participation on the project through March 2018.
“Workforce Goals: The Minority workforce goal is 32% and the Female workforce goal is 6%. We are in line with this goal and achieving 32% Minority and 10% Female participation on the project through March 2018.”
“We don’t track by zip code,” Huber pointed out at the April 24 update, “but…most of the labor is local, and the companies are local, too. But there will be specialty [subcontractors] coming on – seeding and other elements.”
“We are responsible to ensure business inclusion efforts,” Gorski pointed out. “We have an overall goal of 25 percent inclusion for local and small businesses – a five percent goal for minority-owned businesses, and a 10 percent goal for women-owned businesses.”
Huber told the MSR it has been a challenge to find people to work stadium construction jobs. “People that we have right now are really well qualified. It’s skilled labor,” he pointed out. “More and more you are seeing a tougher drive to get young people in construction.
“We are in a virtual crisis to make sure we have enough people to be in the trades on these projects,” Huber continues. “I think it’s across the board, almost a generational difference. There are not enough sons and daughters [of construction workers] who want to go into the trades. They want to go to college… They don’t understand the kind of careers they could have in the trades.”
Questions were also raised about vendor contracts once the stadium is finished and open next spring. “This will be happening,” said Gorski, but he declined to provide any more details at this time. He announced that stadium project update meetings will be held every other month until construction is completed.
Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org